It was almost the end of September and I finally took the chance to see An Occupation of Loss, an art installation and performance work designed by artist Taryn Simon and architect Shohei Shigematsu of OMA New York. "Taryn Simon (b. 1975) is a multidisciplinary artist who has worked in photography, text, sculpture, film/video, and performance" (1). This time, she hired thirty professional mourners from the world to the Wade Thompson Drill Hall of Park Avenue Armory.
This building was renovated by architects Herzog & de Meuron and finished in 2013. The interior space of the head house was restored and renovated to bring back their previous glory, especially room surfaces that suffered from damage over years. The bolloon shed roof and wrought iron arch trusses in the Drill Hall of the original design were kept and added with new infrastructure. In the project description from their office website, they say that "consultations with clients, artist, curators, and advisors confirmed that they all loved the spaces just as they were" (2). The impertectness of the space makes it unique from other galleries and exhibition spaces surrounded with white walls. The 55,000 square-foot Drill Hall enables artists to present large scale work pieces with a gigantic stage. The Park Avenue Armory is now a platform for cultural events from diversed disciplines.
It was a pity that the tickets of the performance at night were sold out pretty soon so I didn't get a chance to experience it but the day time exhibition was open to visitors. After buying tickets at the east door, I was guided to the north side of the building, where I need to take a one-floor-high staircase to enter the building. The first sight of the whole interior space was amazing when the view opened up with a giant space, occupied by 11 vertical hollow raw concrete towers. I guessed this architectural gesture of introducing the first impression was to underscore the hugeness of the towers. The room was dark with only clerestory lightings from the north and the south and several light straps. It possessed such an emotional theatrical atmosphere as every visitor suddenly stopped talking as if there was an invisible switch that was turned to mute. Taking another staircase down to the first floor, I could see as I went down to the first floor, the top of the towers rose up and finally I felt and hugeness of the towers. The touch of the concrete material felt cold and solemn as I remembered the performance at night was related to grief. The sunlight from the clerestory windows somehow brought warmth into the space to present a balance. I walked around on the edges of the room to see the structures in a distance. It took me a while to wait for a empty tower since they were always filled with other visitors. I needed to bend to enter the tower as the entry was made much lower than a normal height. The inside of each tower was lightened with a single thin light strap, almost stretching to the top of the tower. I could hear somebody make a sound in another tower once in a while as we were encouraged to feel the sound effect inside the tower as similar as how the mourners would do. Ten minutes passed and I still enjoyed seating on the bench and looking at the interior details of the tower as my eye sight was directed to the top where it opened up to the ceiling. After stepping out the of tower, I started to notice the audience space on the second level as the trace of time was kept so well.
The installation was programed for a short period of time and three months later I felt so happy to be able to experience it.